Owners of historic LA Mexican restaurant facing eviction over back rent

La Golondrina Cafe claims it was the first Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles, originally opening in 1924. Since 1930, the restaurant has been on Olvera Street in El Pueblo De Los Ángeles. Now, the owners say they're being forced out by the city, being forced to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in back rent and repair costs.

Bertha Gomez's family has run a candy store on Olvera Street since the 1950s. The Gomez family was approved to take over La Golondrina last year. Like many restaurants across LA, La Golondrina was forced to close during the COVID-19 pandemic. But, when the Gomezes attempted to reopen, they found severe damage in the pipes of the roughly 160-year-old building.

The Gomezes said the repairs to the pipes would cost about $90,000. Adding insult to injury, the city is threatening to evict them if they don't pay the rent for the building they haven't been able to open yet.

"The city is demanding an average of $300,000 of back rent," said David Gomez. "That's from the time we signed the lease. Now, we're finding the city in breach of contract and under default and that's why a single penny hasn't yet been paid. Because essentially, they're charging us for a building that is inoperable with broken pipes."

The City of Los Angeles owns and operates Olvera Street and El Pueblo De Los Ángeles. And the Gomez family said the city paid to repair a similar issue at the building nextdoor.

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"The question is if it was fixable for them under our contract how come it's not fixable for us," asked David Gomez.

FOX 11 has reached out to the Olvera Street Management Office and the City, but has not heard back.

The owners have started a GoFundMe campaign to help raise money to pay the city. Information on that fundraiser can be found here.